Stu says: Five observations as Ipswich Town lose 2-0 at Stoke City
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Ipswich Town lost 2-0 at Stoke City in a Championship clash yesterday afternoon. STUART WATSON gives his thoughts.
In many ways this was, sadly, a familiar tale.
Ipswich played very well in patches. And yet they still came away with nothing to show for their efforts. In the end, the opposition’s greater class in the key moments showed. Just like at Forest last weekend it ended in a 2-0 loss.
Paul Lambert and Town’s travelling army of 1,011 were right to be enthused though. This definitely felt like a step in the right direction.
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After a slightly edgy start, the Blues grew into the game. Jack Lankester saw a shot turned against the post. Town may have looked vulnerable down their left side, but they were giving as good as they got. The home crowd, expecting a walkover, became increasingly frustrated.
Then came the hammer blow right on half-time. Deep into the four minutes added on (due to referee Geoff Eltringham having limped off with a hamstring injury), Stoke broke the deadlock through Tom Ince’s smart close-range finish.
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Town started the second half brightly enough, Flynn Downes’ shot testing keeper Jack Butland, but the deficit was doubled on the hour mark as Joe Allen finished off another excellent assist.
The Blues didn’t capitulate. They almost pulled one back when Jordan Roberts’ deflected effort went inches wide. They finished the game having registered more shots and corners, as well as an equal amount of possession.
As Lambert says, the addition of one or two experienced players could easily tip these fine margins in Town’s favour. That has got to remain the hope with four games to go until the January transfer window opens and 75 points still to play for.
Just like against West Brom and Nottingham Forest recently, it was evident that promotion-chasing opposition had the extra quality when it mattered.
And so they should. Stoke, who have just spent a decade in the Premier League, were the pre-season title favourites. The fact there were 279 international caps among their substitutes said it all.
By contrast, half of Town’s starting outfield was made up of players with next to no Championship experience. That’s where we’re at.
This defeat was slightly easier to stomach in that Stoke scored good goals rather than being gifted them.
The first came after a perfectly-weighted through ball from Ryan Woods and clever dummy by Benik Afobe. Allen then produced a cute finish on the run following Erik Pieter’s searching low cross from deep.
Peter Crouch and Darren Fletcher were used as late substitutes for the Potters, while midfielder Charlie Adam wasn’t in their squad at all. Lambert may just look to his former club for an experienced signing or two come January.
BART BOMBED OUT
There was all round shock when Bartosz Bialkowski was dropped by Paul Hurst for the East Anglian derby back in September, but sadly little surprise when he was relegated to bench by Paul Lambert this time.
The Polish international has produced a string of costly mistakes since the new Blues boss has arrived and, as the last three Town managers have now proclaimed, the club have a very able deputy in Dean Gerken.
Five minutes into the game, Gerken raced off his line and was involved with a three-way collision with team-mate Matthew Pennington and Benik Afobe. The ball broke kindly for the home striker, but he couldn’t quite find his balance.
Other than that, Gerken didn’t have a lot to do. He could do nothing about both goals – and they were Stoke’s only two shots on target.
JACK’S THE LAD
In amongst all the gloom of this season, one bright spot is shining – homegrown teenager Jack Lankester.
Following an assured full debut playing central midfield in the 2-0 defeat at Nottingham Forest, the 18-year-old was utilised in a more familiar right-sided role at the bet365 Stadium.
His wand of a left foot gives Town a much-needed set-piece threat that was lacking when Downes was on dead ball duty. On multiple occasions he whipped in dangerous inswinging corners under the crossbar or expertly teased deep free-kicks into the area.
The Bury St Edmunds-born youngster was equally impressive from open play. On and off the ball he looks confident and clever. His impudent effort on the byline at 0-0 was creeping in before Jack Butland turned the ball onto the post and behind.
He still has much to prove, but the Blues look to have unearthed a real gem.
AND THEN IT WAS EIGHT…
The gap to safety has widened to eight points. That’s because Millwall drew 2-2 at home with Hull – a result which keeps both in touch. Rotherham and Sheffield Wednesday, both in the mix, also shared the points.
Table-topping Norwich scored yet another last-gasp goal to beat Bolton at Carrow Road. How galling that we have to be thankful of that.
Free-falling Brentford lost at home to Swansea. In truth, results couldn’t have gone much better.
Now we wait and see how Reading get on against Sheffield United later. If they win the gap reaches double figures.